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Printed visitor guides are not dead

  • December 13, 2017
  • TAGGED: Print

Print versus digital is such a hotly contested subject in most marketing circles, but none more so than in the tourism industry.

With the rise of social media and digital marketing, digitally savvy consumers and digital agencies enamoured with the statistics that digital affords, it’s getting harder to put a case for using print, and particularly for printed visitor guides.

But before we send print the way of the dinosaur, let’s pause and consider some facts.


A significant number of Australia’s tourism attractions are in regional Australia.

These attractions are big drawcards for both domestic and international visitors alike and they are not in our major cities with fast and reliable Internet. For example:

  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Great Ocean Road
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Blue Mountains
  • Byron Bay
  • Uluru
  • Kakadu
  • Broome
  • Flinders Ranges and Outback
  • The Kimberley
  • Ningaloo Reef
  • Freycinet Peninsula

In terms of significance to our visitor economy, just take a look at the winners in the 2016 Australian Tourism Awards:

Major Tourist Attractions:
Gold: Sovereign Hill
Silver: Kakadu National Park
Bronze: Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service – Freycinet National Park

Tourist Attractions:
Silver: Bruny Island Cruises
Bronze: Calypso Star Charters: Port Lincoln

Major Festivals and Events:
Gold: Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Bronze: Mandurah Crab Fest

In fact, of the 75 winners in the 2016 Australian Tourism Awards, approximately 80% were from regional Australia.


Regional tourism is a significant contributor to the Australian economy.

With 46% of tourism expenditure in Australia spent in regional areas, tourism is also of considerable importance to many of Australia’s regional communities. 33% of all Australian tourism businesses are in regional Australia (1).

According to the Regional Australia Institute, the top 10 tourism job ‘hot spots’ are found in the following local government areas: Snowy River, Tasman, Northern Victoria, Queenscliffe, Glamorgan/Spring Bay, Murray, Waigait, Cottesloe, Kiama and Shark Bay (2).

Why is the location of some of Australia’s most signicant tourism assets and attractions important?

Because Internet coverage is very poor in large parts of regional Australia. So how are our visitors going to get local information while they are on the road or in regional Australia when Internet is
poor or unreliable?


Internet is poor in regional Australia.

According to a study published in mid 2016, almost half of regional Australians rate their Internet coverage as ’very poor’. The annual regional wellbeing study quizzed 13,000 people who live outside capital cities, and highlighted their concern that poor internet is hurting regional economies.

According to Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer, 48% of respondents said their Internet was inadequate, or did not meet their current needs. Nationally, just 37% of regional Australians rated their internet as ‘okay’ or ’good’ (3).


Baby Boomers are big travellers and they consume visitor guides.

If you are in regional Australia, chances are a large number of your visitors are ‘grey nomads’, those valuable travellers who have both time and money to spend touring their own country and contributing to local economies everywhere they go.

Those in the industry suggest the number of grey nomads has doubled in the past three years. The latest official Tourism Research Australia figures show that caravan and camping nights are up 13 per cent on the previous year to 11.78 million nights (4).


Recent research proves demand for printed guides in regional Australia.

A recent study by Richard Trembath of Greenhill Marketing, for Mount Gambier in South Australia found:

  • The relative importance of print sources will depend on the type of visitor with many tourer visiting regional areas still interested in accessing material in a hard copy format.
  • A recent survey of visitors to Mount Gambier measured information sources for a sample collected during the March/April shoulder period and included a high proportion of tourers from interstate and overseas.
  • The survey found that 33% of the respondents cited a printed hard copy source compared with 41% citing one or more digital resources.
  • A travel book, guide or brochure was cited as a source by 23% of respondents and 14% cited the Limestone Coast Visitor Guide as a source.
  • A printed source was more likely to be cited by a visitor from interstate or overseas (36%) and a visitor aged 60 or more years (44%) and less likely to be cited by someone aged 18–39 years (20%).
  • Given that the retiring Baby Boomer generation will support increasing numbers of ‘grey nomads’ travelling through regional areas of Australia in the immediate future hard copy resources still remain an important channel for  communicating with visitors.

The reality is, a significant number of visitors to regional Australia demand print AND digital.

There are a number of reasons why the printed visitor guide is still important in Australia but ultimately it gets down to one big reason: lack of Internet connectivity in regional Australia. It doesn’t matter whether you are young, old, digitally savvy or not, if there is no Internet you  can only get your visitor information in two ways: from the Visitor Information Centre and/or via printed guides.

Evidence suggests that visitors do their research online prior to visiting a destination. Many, but not all, book their accommodation online, in advance. However, once in a region, visitors will pick up the guide for tours and other local information. Visitor centre staff have revealed that internationals also prefer a printed guide over downloading guides, which use up their precious (and sometimes
expensive) data. It is not only ‘grey nomads’ seeking a printed guide.

For regional Australia, it’s not a case of choosing print OR digital. For the foreseeable future, it must be both.


(1) Source: Tourism Research Australia
(2) Source: Regional Australia Institute
(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2016-06-21/almost-half-of-regional-australia-reports-internet-very-poor/7529734
(4) Source Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 2017.


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